Her Facebook, Instagram accounts were hacked. Now she says she may lose US$20K.

A recent report that looked at how identity crimes and cyberattacks hurt small businesses found half of those surveyed lost control of a social media account to a cybercriminal, with 87% of them losing business revenue because of it. — Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

While many people use Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch with family and friends, others use the sites to make money.

There’s been a rash of account takeovers by scammers in recent months, and Kelly, who has food pages on the social media website and asked that her last name not be published for privacy reasons, says it’s jeopardizing her livelihood.

She said she is a full-time social media creator who offers recipes with a Texas flair online. Last week, she permanently lost access to her Facebook and Instagram accounts, KellyCooksTexas, which combined had more than 140,000 followers. She also has more than 550,000 followers on Tiktok, which is not owned by Meta and has not been affected by the hack.

“I have US$20,000 (RM94,880) in brand deals that will be affected as contracts are already signed. I receive about US$500 (RM2,372) from Instagram and US$1,000 (RM4,744) from Facebook monthly,” she said, noting that while she can’t access her accounts, someone else still can and is posting videos and other content that have nothing to do with her business.

She’s one of an unknown number of small businesses that have lost access to their accounts in recent weeks and months.

A recent report that looked at how identity crimes and cyberattacks hurt small businesses found half of those surveyed lost control of a social media account to a cybercriminal, with 87% of them losing business revenue because of it.

More than a third of the victims said they lost between US$1,000 (RM4,744) and US$10,000 (RM47,440), the Identity Theft Resource Center report said.

Of the compromised accounts, 38% were on Instagram, 31% were Facebook – both platforms are owned by Meta – and 11% were on YouTube, the report said.

The survey was conducted before many Instagram users on Monday received notifications that their accounts were suspended for violating the site’s guidelines. A spokeswoman for Meta told The New York Times that it was working to resolve the issue, and some people said they got their accounts back within hours.

But that hasn’t been the experience of dozens of people who have told NJ Advance Media their accounts were inexplicably and permanently suspended in recent weeks and months. Consumers and small businesses alike say they’ve been unable to regain access to their Facebook and Instagram accounts, many of which were locked because a hacker posted pornography or other images that violate the social media giant’s terms of service.

When the users appeal, they said they are often denied, even after the user submits the photo identification requested by the company. Frustrated users say they don’t understand how or why the decision was made to permanently revoke their accounts because they cannot reach an actual person to hear them out.

Meta didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment about those accounts.

Businesses and community groups across the country have told NJ Advance Media that losing their accounts has cost them money and access to the communities they serve.

Kelly said she received an email about an unusual login to her accounts from Germany, and even though she uses two-factor authentication and presented Meta with her photo identification in an appeal, the company said the account is permanently suspended and the decision is final, screenshots show.

It’s also happening right now to Carrie Knott of Erie, Pennsylvania, who recently launched a photography business.

She said she was locked out of her personal page and by extension, her business page, in October when her account was hacked. After she appealed, the company said her account was reviewed and permanently disabled, and the decision was final.

“I don’t have a storefront. I get all my business from word of mouth and sharing on Facebook,” she said. “It absolutely kills my business. I have no business without Facebook.” Garrick Conner, a pastor in North Little Rock, Arkansas, has also been locked out of his account.

“Facebook has done me so wrong,” he said. “Someone gained access to my account earlier this month and supposedly posted something awful that violated their community standards.” He said after his account was hacked, it was suspended, causing him to lose 2,800 “friends” and multiple ministry pages that were linked to his personal account.

“I lost my pictures, my memories, and because Meta is the parent company, they also deleted all my personal and ministry-related Instagram accounts as well,” he said. “Perhaps most disturbing, they deleted my Messenger account, with 15 years of heartfelt messages from people – some of whom are now deceased.” He said he used the accounts as an extension of his ministry.

“Anyone who knows me knows I would never post whatever it is that they imply was posted – and certainly not on an account that clearly labeled me as a pastor and licensed counselor, capacities in which I have faithfully served for 20+ years,” he said. “To be honest, I feel like I’ve been convicted without a trial. It sickens me that ‘big tech’ wields so much power in this world.” – nj.com/Tribune News Service

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